Under-fire Republican wins Mississippi Senate vote

Cindy Hyde-Smith wins despite video-recorded remarks by her decried as racist

Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith waves to supporters after speaking during an election night event in Jackson, Mississippi. Photograph: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Republican Cindy Hyde-Smith has won a divisive race for the Mississippi Senate seat, surviving a video-recorded remark decried as racist.

In the footage, Ms Hyde-Smith said of a supporter: “If he invited me to a public hanging, I’d be on the front row”, while a separate video showed her talking about “liberal folks” and making it “just a little more difficult” for them to vote.

The comments by Ms Hyde-Smith, who is white, made Mississippi’s history of racist lynchings a theme of the runoff and spurred many black voters to return to the polls on Tuesday.

In the aftermath of the video, Republicans worried they could face a repeat of last year's special election in Alabama, in which a flawed Republican candidate handed the Democrats a reliable Republican Senate seat in the Deep South.

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The Republicans pumped resources into Mississippi, and US president Donald Trump made a strong effort on behalf of Ms Hyde-Smith, holding last-minute rallies in Mississippi on Monday.

Speaking to supporters after her win, Ms Hyde-Smith vowed to fight for everyone in the state when she goes to Washington.

“I want everybody to know, no matter who you voted for today, I’m going to always represent every Mississippian. I will work very hard and do my very best to make Mississippi very proud,” she said.

Joke

Her supporters said the furore over her comments was overblown.

In the final weeks of the runoff, Ms Hyde-Smith’s campaign said the remark about making voting difficult was a joke.

She said the “public hanging” comment was “an exaggerated expression of regard” for a fellow cattle rancher.

During a televised debate nine days after the video was publicised, she apologised to “anyone that was offended by my comments”, but also said the remark was used as a “weapon” against her.

Democratic opponent Mike Espy (64), who was aiming to become the first African-American US senator from Mississippi since Reconstruction, replied: “I don’t know what’s in your heart, but I know what came out of your mouth.”

Some corporate donors, including Walmart, requested refunds on their campaign contributions to Ms Hyde-Smith after the videos surfaced.

The win makes her the first woman elected to Congress from Mississippi.

Mr Trump tweeted: “Congratulations to Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith on your big WIN in the Great State of Mississippi. We are all very proud of you!”